Obama and Romney Agree: We Spend Too Much Money, So Obviously We Can't Cut Defense Spending

Is there any issue where the two presidential campaigns are more incoherent than on defense spending? 

Here's GOP nominee Mitt Romney's basic position: The federal government spends way too much money, and is on a path to fiscal ruin. So obviously we can't have defense cuts. 

Here's President Obama's basic position: The United States spends an absolutely absurd amount of money on defense, and it prevents us from spending here at home. So obviously we can't have defense cuts. 

The best part? The cuts they're worried about aren't even cuts at all. The military cuts that both of the candidates are focused on are part of "sequestration" — the spending reductions called for as a result of last year's deal to raise the federal debt limit. At last night's debate, both candidates highlighted their opposition to defense spending curbs called for by the agreement. 

A slightly longer version of Mitt Romney's argument might go like this. Federal deficits have been unacceptably large under Obama, and we need to balance the budget without raising taxes, which will mean cutting federal spending from about 24 percent of the economy down to 20 percent. That will involve cutting a few pennies worth of foreign aid and funding for NPR, and also cutting some other stuff which he won't name.

What it won't involve is reducing defense spending. According to Romney, our Navy has too few ships and our Air Force is smaller than ever. "I will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars," he said at the debate last night, pointing to the "sequestration cuts" as reductions he specifically opposed. 

Obama responded to Romney's budget criticisms by pointing to how much we already spend. "Keep in mind that our military spending has gone up every single year that I've been in office," he said. "We spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined; China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, you name it. The next 10." We need a defense budget that's concerned with capabilities, not outdated measures of force size, he argued. And we should remember that spending on sending troops abroad means less money to spend domestically. "What I think the American people recognize is after a decade of war it's time to do some nation building here at home," he said.

So of course the sequester is a budgetary red line that Obama promises we will not cross. "The sequester is not something that I've proposed," he said. "It is something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen." 

Never mind that Obama signed off on the deal. Here's what it would look like if it did go into effect, via Reason columnist and Mercatus Center fellow Veronique de Rugy:

Over the next decade, defense spending would continue to rise under the sequestration "cuts." And since we spend more on defense than the next 10 countries combined, and our debt levels and federal budget path are totally unsustainable, we obviously can't let that happen. 

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  • Pro Libertate||

    It's impossible to run our government without spending more! Impossible!

  • califernian||

    Well, as you know, we've always been at war with Oceana

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    According to Romney, our Navy has too few ships and our Air Force is smaller than ever.

    He's correct that the size of the fleet and force isn't what it was during the Cold War, but this trend was noticed over 30 years ago when Chuck Spinney did his "Defense Facts of Life" and "Plans/Reality Mismatch" briefings. And the problem, as Spinney identified, isn't the lack of spending--spending rises nearly every year. The problem is the military wastes billions on over-complicated contraptions that require more maintenance man-hours and a more robust supply line to replace parts, along with the loooooong operational evaluation tests just to get them in the active fleets to begin with.

    And that trend was identified before we began a 20+ year occupation of the Middle East, which wore out our planes, in particular, far faster than was expected. So now we're in a position where we can't afford to build the high-tech toys the brass loves, and we don't have the manpower to support a simpler-technology fleet that would be cheaper and provide more weapons systems for the buck than what we've produced the last 50+ years.

  • Ken Shultz||

    We have four airbases in the U.K.

    We have four naval installations in Italy.

    Are they all necessary, really?

  • Pro Libertate||

    The possibility of the Roman Empire being restored is a real one.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I'm more worried about the White Walkers.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Then why are you cutting the Night's Watch budget?

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Global warming?

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    Sometime I wish we would just get on with creating the Empire.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Those are for recruitment! And the Fulda gap!

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Italy could shut two, immediately. UK same number. Germany could hand back half the facilites, tomorrow.

    The rest can be phased out over a small number of years.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The third largest naval installation in the world is in...ahem...Bloomington, Indiana.

    ...which doesn't have a pond big enough to fish in, from what I can tell, much less access to the ocean.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    But you can...uh... what do they do there?

  • sarcasmic||

  • Whiterun Guard||

    It's just large in area, it's no bigger than any other useless military installation in what it costs, I'd imagine. Only 3300 employees.

  • Robert||

    Of course, they have cranes, which are aquatic birds.

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    But you can...uh... what do they do there?

    Incumbent protection.

  • DJF||

    If the military and its contractors would stop screwing up procurement then there would be plenty of money. For example

    The Army is now funding the new “Ground Combat Vehicle” to replace the Bradley and other armored vehicles. But the Army already had a replacement program called the “Future Combat Systems” which cost billions but produced no vehicles so they canceled it and renamed it “Ground Combat Vehicle” and are now spending more billions. The ‘Future Combat System” was so screwed up they could not even decide how much it should weight, and so started off at 16 tons and went up as high as 60tons

    The Marines have the “Amphibious Combat Vehicle” to replace the AAV7, but they previously had the “Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle” program which cost billions and produced no operational vehicles. The “Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle” was suppose to travel at 45 mph on land and 30 mph on water but the engines took up most of the room and it was so complex that they could not keep it working.

  • Spoonman.||

    Do they have 5-year-olds doing the initial design work on these things?

  • DJF||

    No, its worse, they go by what can be put on a Power Point presentation. If it looks good on Power Point then they say ‘lets build it”.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    And that is why the Air Force always seems to feed high on the hog - they have killer Power Point slides.

  • SugarFree||

    No, they are simply just companies that aren't held accountable for not delivering on work they are paid for. Don't pay them a dime for the RD; just for a finished product that competes with other finished prototype products at a set date.

    Didn't get it done in time? Fuck you. Piece of shit that doesn't work? Fuck you. Cost over-runs in production? Fuck you.

    It's only rampant cronism that makes the system possible.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Absolutely correct - procurement and RampersandD ever got cleaned up, we could cut defense by 30% and not even blink an eye.

  • John Thacker||

    What's crazy is that the government bureaucrats *prefer* cost-plus to firm fixed price for these kind of things. They really like the idea of being able to micromanage the project from start to end, instead of just looking at the finished product and giving a thumbs up or not.

    They don't care if it makes it more expensive, and results in cost and schedule overruns. They want to own it, and to be in charge, to be the one bossing around the contractors instead of just buying a product.

  • The Hammer||

  • The Late P Brooks||

    It's impossible to run our government without spending more! Impossible!

    Don't you remember those dark days of the Clinton Presidency, when legless urchins and starving old people clogged the sidewalks with their begging bowls? Don't you remember the incessant pillage and plunder we suffered because there was no coal for our paddle wheeled Navy and no powder for our army's muskets?

    We're just hanging by a thread!

  • sarcasmic||

    Round here a while back the Navy decided to repave and repaint the runway at the air station.

    They initiate the process for the two contracts at the same time. The painting contract is completed first so the runway is painted. Then the contract to repave it came through, so they repaved it. Then they wondered why no lines were on it.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    The best and the brightest, sarcasmic. The best and the brightest.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    The “Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle” was suppose to travel at 45 mph on land and 30 mph on water

    Anybody who signed off on a feasibility study for this should be stood up against a wall, in front of a large assemblage of top military personnel, and shot.

    "And let this be a lesson to you, gentlemen."

  • Whiterun Guard||

    If an aircraft carrier can go (almost) 30 mph on water, a smaller vehicle should be able to go that fast no problem...

  • DJF||

    Its not just getting it to go 30 mph on water, it was also suppose to switch over to 45 mph on while at the same time being armored, having a 30mm gun turret and carry 3 crew and 17 fully equipped marines. It required at 2800 HP diesel which took up the center of the vehicle.

    And worse they had to make it keep working which was the problem.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Yes, I was being assinine, much like the people that came up with the original requirements...

  • The Late P Brooks||

    a smaller vehicle should be able to go that fast no problem...

    Not with the undercarriage required for land travel. Unless you're "Q" which apparently is what we have come to.

  • SugarFree||

  • LTC(ret) John||

    The Wisconsin Dells would become a Marine depot.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    That's the James Bond "Q" but the other one might even be better.

  • Mr. Soul||

    i thought Star Trek first, so thanks for 007. This whole thread reeks of Pentagon Wars with Kelsey Grammer.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    I hope for the sequester. Then when Congress actually passes a budget some year, they can look at DoD (and see we don't look like the Army at Valley Forge) and thus realize "say, they can get by on only a shitload of money, rather than a shitload and a half!"

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I hope for the sequester.

    Your internet "fingerprints" are probably on Janet Napolitano's desk by now.

    Nice going, terrorist.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    I shan't be invited to dinner at the Pentagon, ever.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    And we should remember that spending on sending troops abroad means less money to spend domestically.

    So we can either waste money on foreign adventures or waste money on cronyism and civic vanity projects? "Not" wasting money is not an option that's on the table?

  • Rhino||

    If there's one thing you can take away from the debate, it's that neither of the candidates believe the debt or deficit is a top priority issue. They know they are grave threats, but they always state the fact with a caveat that we must invest in green energy and education (obama) or maintain a strong military capable of securing our interests around the world (Romney). The choice between the two is mearly the choice between which other issues are more important than the debt crisis. Arguably, it's not even that.

  • David @ Engage America||

    If we really want to reign in government spending, which is what the Ryan budget wants to do, then removing special interest tax breaks is an important first step.

    As Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center points out, tax breaks fail the duck test, “If it looks like spending and quacks like spending, it is spending– even it resides in the Internal Revenue Code.” http://bit.ly/GVrWuY

  • David @ Engage America||

    If we really want to reign in government spending, which is what the Ryan budget wants to do, then removing special interest tax breaks is an important first step.

    As Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center points out, tax breaks fail the duck test, “If it looks like spending and quacks like spending, it is spending– even it resides in the Internal Revenue Code.” http://bit.ly/GVrWuY

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    thanx man

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  • nike001||

    One hour we do not speak. I thought a lot. Finally, still feel like saying it's the fox is not possible, we Cheap Football Cleats can not find evidence that the gray-haired woman does not show fox, but no evidence, just to prove that the fox can transform himself into a cheap ugg boots for women white-haired woman. And to compare with each other, or scientific concepts prevail.

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